A weekend off to work with some of the new arrivals has gone a little way to patching up the sinking feeling of Jeans’ injury. Preparation for Express Eventing is underway and Maggie is feeling surprisingly spritely after her little après-Badminton rest!

Express Eventing is the exciting new concept of condensing the three phases into one day and one venue — including freestyle dressage to music which adds a more viewer friendly element, to appeal to new comers to the sport. It had a torrid launch in 2008 at the Millennium Stadium (Alex is pictured right riding Chico at this event), but is back again this year as an under-25 competition headlining at the Royal Festival of the Horse on 11 July. It looks like being an exciting competition.

Having said that, I can’t help but say that I am somewhat disappointed with the sentiments of some of my fellow riders. A lot of grumbling and complaining happens behind the scene that there isn’t enough money in the sport and that eventing needs to do something to draw in new sponsorship. However, as soon as someone tries to actively do something about it, no one can bring themselves to support it.

The simple fact is that an under 25-year-old class would never normally have the opportunity to win £5,000 plus other prizes in kind. To put things into perspective, the winner of Bramham under 25-year-old class won £3,600 pounds and I can guarantee you that more money and effort would have gone into getting the horses prepared and fit for that than would have been invested into their dressage to music for Express Eventing.

In terms of organisation, there have been some U-turns on some decisions; for example the withdrawal of flying changes in the test. However, especially in this specific case, the organisers listened to both the experts and the riders and made the right decision to keep them in. It is important that we as competitors are challenged and also that the spectators are treated to the best level of dressage we can produce.

The new format means that we don’t have the organisational safety and security of decades of experience and the many chances to learn from past mistakes that traditional eventing organisers have had. This is the second year for Express Eventing and yes, there are an infinite number of tweaks and changes needed to make this year’s more of a success. The exciting thing is that, because it is new, we can all have our say and input on how it might work in the future.

All I’m saying is don’t give up on Express Eventing. It will never replace the core sport, but has potential to bring in new sponsors and new audiences and deserves a lot more support than it is getting now.

The new ones

Anyway, back to the horses! Maggie (Magenta) and Fiddle (ESB Irish Fiddle) are on great form. The two new horses, Violet and Rodney (Willows Accent, pictured left), have settled in and are going well. Four-year-old Violet understandably has a babyish outlook on life — everything has to be done at a million miles as hour. She is a very talented little horse, moves well and has a very good jump but just needs consistent quiet work to let her understand that her life is a lot easier at a slower pace!

Rodney is just awesome! He almost has too extravagant a jump and virtually jumps me out of the saddle every time. This weekend we’re off to Eridge in Kent in the novice, to give us a chance to get to know one another before we go off and contest his first intermediate.

Alex

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